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The Truth About Travelling Sri Lanka in a Tuk-tuk

The Truth About Travelling Sri Lanka in a Tuk-tuk

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Was it hard to drive?!

Were the roads crazy?!

How much did it cost?!

These are all common questions we’ve been asked since our epic 27-day tuk-tuk journey around Sri Lanka.

And fair enough, I mean these were the same questions we had when we got the idea to rent and drive a tuk-tuk around this gorgeous island nation.

 I mean, normally in Asia tuk-tuks are a cheap form of a taxi, not a full-on mode of transport for nearly a month!

But we thought it would be an adventure and we love adventures – so we didn’t have much hesitation and booked our tuk-tuk.

The truth is, driving our own tuk-tuk around Sri Lanka was incredible and turned out to be a highlight of our Sri Lanka trip. It wasn’t without its challenges though, so in this post, we are going to let you in on what exactly it was like to travel around Sri Lanka in our own tuk-tuk, and reveal the amazing, the stressful, and the downright scary.

After reading this blog, you’ll know if a tuk-tuk journey in Sri Lanka is right for you!

Driving our tuk tuk around the tea plantations near Haputale!
Driving our tuk tuk around the tea plantations near Haputale!
Related Read:   My Truth about Long Term Travel

The Truth About Driving in Sri Lanka

The first challenge we faced when renting the tuk-tuk was learning to drive it.

I (Bailey) wanted no part in it. To be honest, I hate driving on a normal basis and I am self-admittedly not a very good driver. So, for this one, it was all on Daniel.

Having driven motorbikes, scooters, and manual cars before it was a breeze for him to pick up driving the tuk-tuk! He was worried about it a bit before his driving lesson, but after about 30-minutes with an instructor, he was a pro!

Driving the tuk-tuk isn’t the problem – it is the other drivers.

People in Sri Lanka are CRAZY drivers!

The biggest challenge for Daniel was getting used to Sri Lankan driving “rules” (or lack of.) In Sri Lanka, buses rule the roads. We learned very quickly that if a bus is coming (or anywhere near us for that matter) we needed to just get out of the way.

Large trucks and some cars would often speed past us on the highway overtaking when there was oncoming traffic or on blind corners. We just kept as far away from these crazy drivers as possible and took our time.

In Sri Lanka, it is a law that tuk-tuks can only travel at 40km/hr as a maximum. This may sound slow, but believe me –once you’re in the tuk-tuk this speed is actually a safe and reasonable speed to travel at. In fact, staying at 40km/h or slower will allow you to react better to any situation and not compete with the cars or buses.

Driving through the hills in Horton Plains National Park
Driving through the hills in the Knuckles Mountain Range

So, was it safe?

Ah, the ultimate question…

For us, it was! No accidents (not even a minor bump) and certainly no injuries. After seeing how the buses drive, I felt very safe in my tuk-tuk. The buses were always going ridiculously fast and to be honest, I was glad I didn’t have to ride on any of them.

There are always risks when traveling in foreign countries where the roads are different no matter what type of vehicle you’re in or who is driving. The tuk-tuk felt safe and we were careful so we had no problems at all!

Being in a tuk-tuk does have its risks though. There are no seatbelts and the vehicle is very tiny and wouldn’t likely hold up well in a large crash. That being said, if you drive carefully, slowly, and are aware of your surroundings you should be just fine. The cars and buses just go around Tuk-tuks and because your traveling much slower they pass with ease.

But as with any activity, you’ll definitely want to have insurance…

watching an elephant from our tuk tuk!
Just casually watching an elephant from our tuk tuk!

Insurance and the Tuk-tuk

First of all, get travel insurance that will cover you for renting and driving a tuk-tuk. Some companies actually have policies specifically designed for this while others you should call and ask (generally you need to be covered for both driving a car AND a motorbike (up to 250cc) to be covered for driving a tuk-tuk.)

But besides your travel insurance, if you rent off a reputable company like we did (Tuktuk Rental) they will have full insurance for the tuk-tuk and any accident including any medical care for yourself or passengers while in Sri Lanka.

Related Read:   17 of the Best Things to do in Mirissa, Sri Lanka
Te truth about renting a tuk tuk!
From the beach to the highlands our tuk tuk came with us everywhere!

Choosing the Right Rental Company

I can’t stress the importance of this enough!

Before we rented our tuk-tuk we didn’t really understand who to rent off or how to go about it. We thought that we could just rent a tuk-tuk off a guy in the street for cheap, no worries.

And sure, we could’ve…but knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t recommend it.

In terms of insurance, safety, instruction, licenses, quality of tuk-tuks, and 24/7 support I recommend renting with a reputable company who helps with all of this! We rented our tuk-tuk from Tuktuk Rental and they honestly thought of everything (things we had no idea about) and made our trip as smooth as possible.

We had such a great experience with Tuktuk Rental they actually have a program for people who rent their tuk tuks to pass on savings to friends! So if you rent your tuk-tuk using our discount code you’ll save 5%. Use our discount code ‘DEST’ to get your tuk-tuk rental 5% off!

watching elephants while in our rental tuk tuk in Sri Lanka
Did we mention you’ll see elephants?

Navigating and Getting Around

Since I wasn’t driving, I got the lovely (insert eye-roll here) job of the navigator – I am just as bad with directions as I am at driving! We did get lost a couple of times and ended up on “roads” that just turned into dirt paths in the middle of nowhere.

Sometimes we had to turn around and sometimes ask for directions. But other than that everything went smoothly and Sri Lanka as actually really easy to navigate.

We actually bought a sim card for our phone so we had internet everywhere and used Google Maps all of the time.

Book an awesome tour in Sri Lanka…

The Freedom!!!

Being about to go anywhere we wanted whenever we wanted without having to arrange a taxi or a tour was AMAZING! Even the simplest things like going out for dinner across town was even easier for us.

We spent no time planning routes or catching buses. No time haggling with tuk-tuk drivers or taxis. If we wanted to go somewhere or do something – we just went! It was really that simple and we absolutely loved it.

Was it worth the money?

Let’s face it, traveling in your own tuk-tuk isn’t the cheapest way to get around Sri Lanka. Public buses and trains are cheaper at only a couple of dollars per ride.

To me, the tuk-tuk was well worth the money because we loved having the freedom and it was so much fun! It itself is an experience, and one you won’t forget, I promise!

But besides that, the tuk-tuk also saved us money on other aspects of our trip. We never had to hire a tuk-tuk driver to get around to attractions or to our hotel. We often stayed at hotels or guesthouses a couple of kilometers out of town because they were always cheaper than those that were centrally located. This was all a savings for us overall.

Renting a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka was an awesome experience!
It’s an experience that we won’t’ forget. Thank you Sri Lanka

Would we do it again?

Yes! 100% we WILL be hiring a tuk-tuk again in the future and using it a mode of transport on a trip. Tuktuk Rental also operates in India so that sounds like a good plan for us next!

If (when) we return to Sri Lanka we will have no choice but to hire a tuk-tuk again. After being spoiled by traveling in a tuk-tuk before it would be impossible to go back to inconvenient public transport.

Are you thinking about traveling in Sri Lanka by a hired tuk-tuk? Do you have questions? Read our complete guide to tuk-tuk rental in Sri Lanka!


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Simon Daruvala

Tuesday 14th of April 2020

Hey guys, great blog! My partner and I will be heading to Sri Lanka for 2 weeks this summer (we were meant to be there right now!), and our planned itinerary is CMB - Sigiriya/Dambulla/Minneriya - Trincomalee - Polonnaruwa - Kandy - Nuwara Eliya - Ella - Yala - Mirissa - Hikkaduwa - CMB. Renting a tuktuk look so much fun, but since we only have 2 weeks, we're thinking of renting a (small-ish) car instead, just for extra security (suitcases) and for quicker journeys (I'll be driving everywhere). Do you think renting a small car would work for our trip? I'd prefer to drive ourselves than hire a driver as I tend to get a bit travel sick! Cheers :)


Tuesday 14th of April 2020

Hey Simon!


A car will definitely be faster especially when you get out towards Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Trincomalee, and Sigiriya. The reason is the roads are more open and you can travel a lot faster through the mountains in a car than in a tuk tuk. Between Colombo and Mirissa the journey will be a little slow as there is a lot of traffic on this coastline.

Overall though a car is a great choice and will help you get around easily. Your itinerary is also good as you'll avoid the southern coast when you are new to driving in Sri Lanka. That part of the country is pretty crazy to drive when you first get there!

Hope this helps and if you need anything else just let me know!

Thanks Daniel

Barry Preshner

Saturday 21st of December 2019

Thnx for that Daniel.We're currently in Jaffna. Other than hitting a motor cyclist up the arse on his bike going through a herd of cows (he dropped the throttle for some reason) everything is great. As it happens I hadn't done all the paperwork on arrival and so we didn't get away for a couple of days and by the time we did we only had a few hours on the road. It meant we never got to our first destination and had to stop halfway. As you suggested re- don't drive too far to start with, that's what happened and was the best thing. So now after a week we're cruising in this thing. It's fun doing 60kph and getting stopped. When the coppers see you're a foreigner they just wave you on! We've gone down some shocking muddy, tracks, full of water and holes for k's at a time to get to accommodation and the thing is holding up - just. We have a terrible squeaky wheel which will have to get serviced soon. A couple more days here then off to sunny Kandy. Warm Regards and enjoy your Xmas. Barry


Sunday 22nd of December 2019

Hey Barry!

So glad you're having an awesome time and that you found our advice helpful!

Haha, it seems like the coppers are going easy on you but I guess Sri Lanka is trying to encourage more tourists to come again.

If you go a squeaky wheel just go get it greased! It'll only cost a few dollars but is good for the tuk-tuk.

Thanks mate Merry Christmas and happy new year!


Barry Preshner

Friday 6th of December 2019

Hi Fellas just about to go off on our adventures in SL with, like you, our own rented tuk tuk. Two questions for you. The first is that I am concerned about security as we also will be doing quite a big tour in this thing and I'm concerned about leaving any luggage in the tuk tuk. i'm sure we will be stopping all the time and it will be a bit of a pisser if we have to keep our main pack with us. We have small day packs for passports, money etc which would normally go with us if we leave the vehicle. Do you feel that we should take everything with us? I know on these sorts of trips you can sometimes get a vibe for what's seems like a secure/unsecure place if you're stopping. The other question was did you have the larger tuk tuk with more space to leave a bag or was that the smaller version? We are getting the smaller one and it's hard to tell if there is a lot of room going by the rental company's video, doesn't look like it. Also how did you find the roads? When I posed the question of driving around SL in a tuk tuk on the Trip Advisor forums I got huge negatives of "Nah, no-one does that in a tuk tuk" and "not recommended." Would be interested to hear back from you.Going next week so if you see this too late no worries! Regards Barry (NZ)


Sunday 8th of December 2019

Hey Barry!

First off thanks for reaching out!

As for your bags, I highly suggest bringing a bike lock from home. We didn't have one and never had a problem but a bike lock can give you some peace of mind by locking your bags to your tuk-tuk. Obviously, this isn't a full-proof plan as people could cut the bags but its highly unlikely and for the most part Sri Lankans are lovely people and in busy tourist spots or in small villages will look after tourists.

I only got the standard tuk-tuk which had plenty of room for two people and our bags. It's actually surprising how much you can fit in them! Just go with what you got and if it is too small for you I am sure the rental company would upgrade you if you absolutely needed more room!

As for TripAdvisor, well that's the perfect place to get negative feedback from people who themselves only say its not a thing because they have not done it. It is definitely a thing that's becoming increasingly popular. I am not going to lie the roads take a little getting used too but once you leave the big cities and the southern coast the traffic disappears and the open roads begin. It's normal to be concerned as I was too before setting off but just take the first few days easy and don't plan massive driving days. For your first day just aim to travel a few hours and see how you go I remember the first few days were a little stressful so I enjoyed the fact that I only drove for a few hours. By the end though, I drove fine from Sigiriya all the way to Colombo without a worry.

I hope this helps mate and if you need any more info just ask!

Thanks Daniel